NEW YORK: The digital marketing ecosystem, previously dominated by CPG companies, has captured the attention of forward-looking B2B brands such as Travelers.

John H. Bell, vp/enterprise digital marketing at the commercial insurance group, discussed this subject at the ANA's 2015 Digital & Social Media Conference.

Travelers is attempting to create the kind of engagement CPG brands enjoy, but with a brand whose offerings include such services as cyber-risk avoidance, management of supply-chain disruptions and property protections.

"[Travelers] does have a marketing culture," Bell insisted. (For more, including how Travelers is helping customers understand difficult choices, read Warc's exclusive report: Travelers' dilemma: Speaking B2B in a digital voice.)

But it's a culture with messages grounded in what he called "data-driven responsive marketing, where we're trying to earn people's attention and drive them to action."

Underpinning the commercial insurance practice, he continued, is "an underwriting culture, which, for a marketer, is particularly challenging: If you know what underwriters do, essentially they assess risk and avoid it like the plague."

Or, in other words, not the type of brand building that relies on the quips of charming lizards to move product.

Bell's task is further complicated by the particular circumstance of the insurance business. "While we do sell direct to consumers in one part of our business, the majority of our business is sold through independent agents," he explained.

"They sell Travelers; they sell our competitors. We do not control the sales channel. We do not have a closed loop (...) We have smarter customers trying to solve their problems earlier."

According to Bell, "8.9 sources of information are reviewed by B2B buyers versus half that [number] not so long ago. Essentially they're finding and consuming a lot of sources to form their point of view.

"They're not just going to our website. They're not just going to their peers. Or they're not just referring to content that they read online and editorial sources," he added.

"They're grabbing everything to form a point of view. And 84% of B2B buyers rank word of mouth as the top trusted source for buying decisions."

Data sourced from Warc